Sunday, April 27, 2014

DAMAGED GOODS (1961)

Horror can manifest as a knife or a chainsaw, but for swinging teens of the early 1960s and their tumid libidos, horror took the form of a plague that showed up as bumps and sores after makeout sessions, with a theme song done by The Ventures.


America beat Germany and Japan, but V.D. would be its toughest challenge yet.  It would afflict the lives of typical teens like Jim Radman and Monk Monahan.  Both car-obsessed, each had additional hobbies that V.D. would test.  Jim excels at track and tries to decide between college or marriage with his squeeze, Judy.  Monk digs skirts and what they cover.  


The dementia and cheapness of DAMAGED GOODS doesn't really show itself until we meet Kathy, a raven-haired hussy who sets her eyes on Jim.  She shows up at a track meet dressed for prom and we get inexplicable cuts between stands full of cheering people and close-ups of two rows of elderly "teens".


Kathy, like very slutty water, finds cracks in the relationship of Jim and Judy and fills them with her presence.  She's basically queen of the maneaters and worms her way into Jim's heart, using and discarding the dull Monk along the way.


"Ah-ha!" you think. "This is where the V.D. comes in!"  But no and how dare you think that about Kathy, you son of a bitch.  DAMAGED GOODS makes you wait forever for the payoff.  Much of this is just plain ol' teenage relationship drama.  But that's not to say that there aren't interesting things happening.  Purely by happenstance, the movie captures the tension of the 50s bleeding over into the 60s.  Its mix of Coke bottles at the rec center with gin bottles at the strip club shows sex bursting out of hiding.  Kathy's bohemian outfit and garish makeup are the shock of the new.  DAMAGED GOODS is a snapshot of evolution in action.  FU, Ken Ham.


But we all paid to see V.D. and we finally get there.  The kids journey to the seediest of strip clubs.  The movie's low budget really works in its favor here, since this dark and ugly dump looks exactly like the kind of place that idiot boys would visit.


In some really inspired scenes, we get superimpositions of boy reactions over various grinding parts of the female anatomy.  DG kinda goes superimposition-crazy here, with the lads floating over skirts and blouses, but also gushing beer taps.  I think there might be a metaphor here, I dunno.


These scenes just basically want to indict everything.  Sex, drinks, and close-ups of cash register operations.  Capitalism and its insidious friends.  All things that can annihilate promising young lives.  


Even so-called art is not spared from the movie's critical eye.  The boys hook up with hookers, which isn't shown in explicit detail, although the next scene does let us know what happened.


Yes yes yes yes yes!  Perhaps the greatest metaphor in the history of metaphors.  


Jim blows a race because of a pimple on his penis, so he consults his coach and a doctor.  Then we get the blow-off scenes, a film-within-a-film about SYPHILIS AND GONORRHEA.


I love how this could be read as syphilis and gonorrhea being products of the US Public Health Service.  They didn't really perfect their disease production craft until AIDS came along.  The film has a typical sex-hygiene narrator, shot in extreme close-up in front of wood paneling.  


The goods are delivered in the form of squicky scenes of sore-ridden unfortunates.  A young Robert Redford, everybody!


We also get detailed animation (yay! cartoon time!).  Overall, the V.D. scenes of the film only occupy maybe 10% of its running time.  


"We're not here to pass moral judgment, we're here to stamp out V.D.!"  I suspect that this is probably an upper-echelon example of the sex-scare genre.  That's not really saying much, since DAMAGED GOODS isn't spectacular or anything.  It's moderately diverting and entertaining if you're in a goofy mood, but it fails to provide consistent fun.  Remarkably, lots of the actors had lengthy careers after this with Dolores (Kathy) Faith going on to perennial MST3K favorite THE HUMAN DUPLICATORS.


RATING: 5

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